Program trains, supports students to be leaders

Program trains, supports students to be leaders

For someone considering medicine as a career, Anna Thompson can count on the support of community leaders and health care professionals to help her achieve that goal.

The Markham District High School student is among 27 Grade 10 pupils in the Greater Toronto Area enrolled in the Leadership by Design (LBD) program that will provide at least seven years of developmental support.

Admitted in Grade 10, they will be offered leadership and career development until they graduate with an undergraduate degree or, for those choosing to go further, a graduate degree.

“This is exciting,” said Thompson who was introduced to the program by her vice-principal Deanna Heron, the daughter of late Jamaican-born community worker Robert Brown. “It’s great to know that I will have leaders and professionals at my disposal that I can turn to for support. It’s awesome.”

Adam Markle, 15, aspires to be an anaesthesiologist.

He thanked his mother – Maria Markle – for opening the door of opportunity for him.

“She brought home the application form and I did the research and knew this is a program I want to be part of,” said the North Toronto Collegiate Institute student.

Enrolled since last September, the students – who must be Canadian residents of Jamaican or African-Caribbean descent – will meet once a month on Saturdays for a full day with subject matter experts. The meetings will be held in university and corporate settings.

“The idea is that by the time they graduate, university will not be a big deal,” said retired Centennial College registrar Trevor Massey who chairs the Lifelong Leadership Institute (LLI) that administers the LDP. “They will understand how that work and feel comfortable. They will also get University of Toronto and Ryerson University student cards that will enable them to have access to those universities’ libraries.”

The students were introduced at a launch ceremony recently.

Massey said the program is an investment in the future of youths.

“We need to develop a gushing pipeline of people who can take on leadership roles in our society,” he said. “We have leaders, but we need more and we need them in strategic positions where they can open doors for others. Leaders make things happen. They are the ones who can define and sell a vision, assemble and motivate a team, collaboratively fashion strategy to achieve a goal and, who in the end, can get things done. Leaders lead change, adapt to change and they know how and when to follow. They can also read a situation. Why not provide experiences and opportunities which enhance the leadership capabilities of young people? We require an institution, one that would be endured and that would extend well past our lifetime.”

Each student will have a teacher champion in their school and their parents will be fully engaged in the process.

“This is a critical formula for success,” Massey noted. “When you think of the teacher champion and engaged parents and then we being in the community, I think we have the right to call this ‘A Circle of Care’.

The students will also be exposed to mentors who will be their sponsors, and arts and cultural pathways.

“No cultural space will be closed to them,” Massey pointed out. “They will be exposed to outstanding authors, poets, storytellers and artists and they will explore the origins of steelpan music, Jamaican folk music and its progression to reggae and dancehall, the storytelling of the Black Diaspora, the richness of African folk arts and modern operatic expression.”

Internationally renowned educator Dr. Avis Glaze was invited to meet with the first cohort of students at the launch.

“As you move into university, the workplace, and the boardrooms and up the ladder of success, never forget what it means to be an ethical human being, what it means to care deeply about others and what it means not to forget your past,” she told them. “Have a strong motivation to achieve, lift as you climb, volunteer and develop a human rights orientation to life.”

Glaze, who resides in British Columbia, encouraged the young people to look around their environment and observe how people are treated.

“Sometimes, you may not want to take it on by yourself,” she said. “You may just want to tell somebody ‘I don’t like how that older person is being treated’. But never move away from injustice of any kind without advocating with someone as to what can we do to help that person. You are leaders and leaders fight for the rights and perspectives of others. Be strong advocates for others. It’s not only about us and our success, but it’s about how we care about the others. That is the mark, I believe, of a good leader.”

The other members of the inaugural class are Faith Ebanks and Benjamin Jacobs (Emery Collegiate Institute), Abigail Holmes and Star Lewis (Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School), Nicholas Ogilvie and Sade Regis (Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School),  Brianna Glanville-Forrest and Starlet Tota-Dookie (Vaughn Secondary School), Benjamin Aenishanslin (Monarch Park Collegiate Institute), Andre Alexander (Notre Dame Catholic High School), Shekinah Alexander (Forest Hill Collegiate Institute), Alexia Ampofo (Cardinal Carter Academy), Keshawn Charles (Stephen Lewis Secondary School), Kiana Darrell (John Polanyi Collegiate Institute), Jaiden Davis (Thornlea Secondary School), Taylor Francis (Mayfield Secondary School), Colin Heron (Woburn Collegiate Institute), Chaylan Nairne (Markham District High School), Abishai Nurse (North Park Secondary School), Roberto Pagliero (Bill Crothers Secondary School), Warren Sucklal (Bloor Collegiate Institute), Jade-Leigh Sinclair (Garth Webb Secondary School), Khalil Wheatle (Sir William Mulock Secondary School) and Alaiyah Wilson (Humberview Secondary School).

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